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Current Status of Collector Cars?

SEMA Study 2021

I am not even pretending to be an expert on collector car values or what the future holds. A common conversation among older car guys regards what happens to our cars in the future. Who will want to purchase our cars when we old guys no longer want to play with our toys?

To most of us, the younger generations (under 40) don’t really care about cars. They like electronics and travel. They might remember the old “1980s cars” from their youth, but may not get why we like those muscle cars.

SEMA is arguably the most invested automotive organization around. If no one wants to own, drive, show, race or work on vintage cars in the future, their membership base and industry are in big trouble. What follows is a snippet from a recent study they completed. In particular, what does that mean for our Blue Oval Aero Cars?

The report states that: “It is rare for individuals to own over one classic vehicle at a time,” the report adds that 88 percent of classic car owners have only one classic vehicle. They add: “More often it is a prized possession that is held onto for as long as possible.”

I believe that in our group, most owners have more than one classic or what to have over one. I also believe that they hold on to their prized possessions for longer periods of time.

The SEMA study also reports that 30 percent of classic vehicles are in better condition than when they were purchased, 52 percent are in the same condition and only 18 percent are in worse condition. My impression is that this would also seem to fit with our group. However, I am not sure 18 percent of our cars decrease in condition during our ownership.

Ownership for 20 years or longer represents 38 percent of classic vehicles, with 73 percent of the vehicles owned by the same person for at least 5 years. This statistic is saying that only 27 percent of classic vehicles have changed hands in the last 5 years. Just looking at the approximately 150 Talladegas in our Registry, approximately 40 cars of Members were sold in the last 5 years. I do not believe that is representative of our group. HOWEVER, in the last 5 years we have likely added approximately 40 Talladegas to the Registry.

Private sale or auction?

The auction block was entertaining and was fun to watch.

The SEMA report goes on to state that of all classics, 32 percent were obtained from a friend or relative, 27 percent from a dealership, 14 percent from online listings and another 10 percent from a private party. Of those ages 45 or older, 44 percent got their car through a friend or relative, and 51 percent in that group show their vehicles through social media outlets.

Online auctions account for 5 percent of purchases and in-person auctions for 3 percent. 

All other sources, including salvage yards and swap meets, account for 9 percent of purchases.

As is or restore?

Where our group appears to differ from the SEMA study is regarding this question. In the report, among classic car owners, 29 percent want their car restored to factory condition, 26 desire a resto-mod update with the original appearance but modern mechanicals, 7 percent go full custom or hot-rod, and 37 percent are happy just to keep their classic in running, driver condition. I believe that a nearly all owners what their car restored to original factory condition or modified in such a what that it can always be returned to original specifications.

However, the shops that work on classic cars report that only 20 percent of their business is restoration, while 30 percent involves custom or hot rod builds and 50 percent is meeting the demands of the resto-mod market, which is still growing.

What does all this mean for the future of classic collector cars? The report does not state a conclusion on this question. Let me suggest a conclusion.

Walking down an isle at a car show while drooling over a perfectly restored classic and telling your grandson about how hard it is to find that particularly rare distributor will probably not make him a future car collector. However, if you take your grandson or the kid next door on a ride in your 428 CJ 4-speed and run through the gears, or go to a race car event or take a tour on a back road country road you just might make him a gear head. Most of all, the younger generations must have the ability to acquire a classic car.

For the younger generation, we must accept that, when they get older, they will probably lust after a car they remember from their youth AND one they can afford. That will not be one of our cars. With education and experience and growing incomes, they may want to own one of our classic collector aero warriors.

It is our responsibility to give our youth the experience of the collector classic car and hope that when all new cars are electric, that we can still purchase high octane gas!


Some of my first and strongest memories from my childhood relate to cars. I still remember when things happened based on what car I was driving at the time. I grew up and lived in Iowa for nearly 40 years before moving to Southern California and now live in Tennessee. I was a Corvette fanatic for years but then re-discovered vintage American Muscle. My wife, Katrina, and I decided we wanted to focus on unique and rare muscle cars. After a lot of research we fell in love with the Ford Blue Oval Aero Cars. These were only built in 1969 and and aerodynamics became an important part of winning races. The only purpose of these limited production cars was to win NASCAR races using the Boss 429 and 427 power plants complimented with a special, wind cheating, aerodynamic body. The Ford Talladega and Mercury Cyclone Spoiler II are terrific and historic cars. This site is devoted to these car and their owners past and present. We provide an Online Registry for recording the long term history and ownership of every remaining Talladega, Spoiler and Spoiler II.

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